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How to keep CMOs from making disastrous software purchases

Paul Rubens | Sept. 24, 2014
When the chief marketing officer (CMO) makes software purchasing decisions, it's a near-certain recipe for security, performance and scalability disasters -- and it's the CIO who's likely to be asked to sort out the resulting mess. That's the view of Sheldon Monteiro, CTO of SapientNitro, a division of business and technology consultancy Sapient.

Arts skills may seem an unlikely requirement for anyone involved in software procurement. To explain why, Monteiro draws on the thinking of Philippe Kruchton, a professor of software engineering at the University of British Columbia.

Almost a decade ago Kruchton wrote that software architectures come from three sources: Theft, method or intuition.

  • Theft, despite is alarming name, refers to nothing more sinister than the practice of building on things that have been done before and taking advantage of best practices. One on-premises ERP system is much like another, for example.
  • Method refers to the process of taking structured steps based on a system's requirements, along with technological and other restraints, to get to an outcome.
  • The odd one out is intuition, which refers to the capability to invent something that hasn't been done before and isn't derived from something that already exists using a systematic process.

When CIOs select software systems, Monteiro argues, they use theft or method — employing best practices, looking at things that have been tested and are proven, taking structured steps and concentrating on reducing risk. Intuition? Not so much.

However, recent innovations such as the cloud, mobility and big data have revolutionized marketing technology, giving organizations a significant opportunity to use innovative technology. CMOs are starting to realize that failing to get involve on the "intuition" side of technology increasingly means getting outsmarted by competitors, Monteiro says.

CIOs have remained focused on the "old way" of doing things, looking at predictability and reuse. CMOs, meanwhile, push those ideas out of the way, saying that they need to be innovative, and to use innovative software, to do their jobs.

"Some CMOs are simply moving at a speed that CIOs can't match," Monteiro says. "In those organizations, the CMO is getting a bigger role in IT spending."

The good news for CIOs is that the future doesn't have to be one of running email systems and picking up the pieces when the CMO's latest software goes horribly wrong. Of course, that relies on the CIO being willing to move with the times.

"Where the CIO 'gets' the need to move to the CMO's use of intuition and emerging technology," Monteiro concludes, "then there can be a good partnership between the two."


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